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An old friend teaches me a new word
Catching up with old friends over brunch can feel a little like swapping tables of contents on the stories of your lives. With only a few hours together, as much as you want to hear and share it all, you really only have time to explore a chapter or two.
In less than 30 minutes, as we shared the headlines of all that had filled our lives since we were last together, we mentioned challenges and joys; illnesses and injuries; milestones, feats, and successes. Hearing it all in a quick dump left me at least a little stunned at how much we’d all navigated.
Then our friend smiled and summarized perfectly:
“Life is being very lifey, isn’t it?”
Oh, how I love his adjective! Indeed, how lifey life had been! How lifey life is!
This new word contains a lot of wisdom
This made-up adjective conveys in five letters the truth that, to live life well, we are asked to embrace its swath of ups and downs; smooth stretches and rocky roads; and heartbreaks and happinesses. No matter how we may prefer it to be otherwise, life is going to be lifey. Seeing as how it’s the life we’ve got, we’d best get down to the rich and rewarding business of living it.
Our friend’s word and the smile on his face when he said it, also capture a stance or perspective on life that comes from a steady practice of mindfulness – be it yoga, meditation, or some other form. It’s the willingness to accept life exactly as it is. To welcome the good, the bad, and the ugly as part and parcel of the experience of being human.
Doing so requires practitioners to set aside any notion that one day, when life is [choose your adjective: better, easier, more fun, richer, simpler, healthier, more successful, and so on] they will be happy. This is an easy mindset to fall into, especially in our goal- and achievement-oriented society. But it leaves us subliminally slogging through most of life.
We can practice the skill of navigating life
When you stand on a yoga mat holding Chair Pose for what feels like an eternity practice after practice, you are doing more than strengthening your quads. Yes, you are training yourself to find the highlights and gifts in hard times. But the much more powerful lesson we learn by taking these challenging postures is how to find rest, ease, and a sense of space when we are being stretched to our limits.
This is the skill (yes, I think it is a skill that comes from steady practice like dexterity on a keyboard or grace on a court) that allows us to smile and call life lifey when our kid is injured, or our parent is sick, or we’ve lost our job, or our partner is leaving us.
This same skill also allows us to smile and call life lifey when we’ve gotten the promotion at last; or when we realize we’ve been blithely gliding along for months; or when we’re head over heels in new love; or when the kids are all getting along. Lifey, in good times and hard times, holds life lightly. Lifey trusts that life will change. Lifey understands that life is a series of moments – all of which can be relished.
Life is richer when we are willing to share all of its lifey-ness
Over brunch, our friends and we could have focused on the joys alone. The successes, the travels, the happy moments. We could have chosen simply to celebrate with one another. Or we could have focused solely on the challenges. The illnesses, frights, and disappointments. We could have chosen to console, commiserate with and support one another. Truly, either approach would have yielded a lovely visit.
I am grateful that our friend freed us to do both. By smiling and deeming our lives “very lifey,” we shared a depth of connection that comes from a mutual willingness to explore the fullness of life together. Clear-eyed, honest, and open conversations like this one are the moments we’re all seeking of rest, ease, spaciousness, and joy when life is being (I’m going to use his fabulous word one more time) lifey.
This is the last week to join my year-long course, Growing in Grace: A Practice, where we will explore mindfulness practices that support us when life is at its most lifey. Click here to learn more (scroll down for video interview) or reach out for more information.